“Life taught you a lesson.”
After 10 years in a Moscow jail, Hamro (Maruf Pulodzoda) returns home to the impoverished Muslim village of Asht in Tajikistan. He’s not a particularly likeable fellow–when the taxi driver asks for the rest of his fare, Hamro tells him that the village is known as the “Wolves’ Den”, and that the taxi driver could be murdered and buried there and no one would care.
Hamro returns to his aged mother’s dilapidated house–only to discover that she’s on her deathbed. It doesn’t take him long to begin calculating how much the house is worth, and he immediately tries to sell it. In the meantime, he starts fixing up the long-neglected house, and runs up debts he anticipates being able to pay with the sale. But Hamro’s wily old mother (Uktamoi Miyasarova)–who still has plenty of life in her–rises from her deathbed. Hamro, no longer able to sell the house, and in debt up to his eyeballs, is suddenly confronted by a gang of locals who beat him up as a means of persuading him to take custody of a child he abandoned years before. Faced with responsibilities he can’t shirk, Hamro devises a desperate plan….
Angel on the Right refers to a legend that Hamro’s mother tells her grandchild: we are all born with two angels on our shoulders–one on the left, and one on the right. The angel on the left records our bad deeds, but the angel on the right–according to the legend–records the good deeds we do. This darkly humorous, refreshingly different tale offers a slice of the culture of Tajikistan, and for lovers of world cinema, this is a delighful experience. Some of my favourite scenes occur at the makeshift cinema that shows cheesy films on an ancient projector (much as depicted in The Stars’ Caravan). From writer/director Jamshed Usmonov, Angel on the Right is in Tajik with English subtitles.